The Other Side of Animation 224: Luca Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


You know how I have mentioned in a few reviews this year that studios like Disney can and have become very complacent with how they want to deliver their animated features? How the teams at these studios want to push the boundaries on the stories they tell, but know that they have to begrudgingly stay within the boundaries since they are one of the biggest media corporations aimed at families? It must be frustrating because you can tell that they want to do more, but can’t. You can see that in their films like The Black Cauldron from 1985, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and to some degree, Raya and the Last Dragon, they feel like it could have gone further. The same goes for Disney’s other major studio, Pixar. While Pixar tends to get away with a little more than their owners with how ambitious or adult-themed their films can be, they sure did have an identity crisis after 2010. From 2011 to 2020, while still releasing great movies like Inside OutFinding DoryCocoToy Story 4, and Soul, their lineup was less than stellar. It reminds me of how Disney was back in the 60s-80s after Walt Disney died, or back in the 2000s after their streak of hits from the 90s. There are going to be growing pains, but in some ways, that is healthy. Could you imagine being forced to reinvent the wheel over and over again or else you are considered a failure? Or how the studio will function after a major founder leaves or is fired because they were a scummy individual behind the scenes? Anyway, I talk about all of this because of Pixar’s newest film, Luca

Directed by Enrico Casarosa, written by Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones, this is Pixar’s newest animated feature that was unfortunately sent directly to Disney+, and while you can argue about the whole theatrical scene right now due to the pandemic that we are still in, and they made sure everyone could watch the movie, it’s still a bummer they didn’t give the film a theatrical release. Still, how does this new Pixar film stack up among their 26 years of animated features? Well, let’s dive into the crystal blue waters and check out this fishy movie. 

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Our story revolves around Luca, voiced by Jacob Trembly, a humanoid fish being that has been told his entire life that humans are dangerous individuals and has mostly lived his life as a shepherd of fish. One day, while letting the fish graze among the kelp, he finds items from humans that have fallen into the water. As he goes to collect these items, Luca encounters another fish person named Alberto, voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer. Alberto lives on the surface world, and you find out that if sea monsters walk on land, they turn into humans. Luca gets tantalized by the land as he hangs with Alberto. That is until Luca’s parents scold Luca for going onto land and plan to send him off to the deeper part of the ocean. Luca rebels and decides to go to the human town of PortoRosso with Alberto. There, the two meet a young girl name Giulia Marcavaldo, voiced by Emma Berman, her father Massimo Marcavaldo, voiced by Marco Barricelli, a bully named Ercole Visconti, voiced by Saverio Raimondo, and learn about the human way of life. Will Luca ever go back to the ocean, or will he fall in love with the human world? 

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So, it’s hard to talk about this film because of the discussions being had around the studio itself. People have seemed to put Pixar on this unhealthy pedestal of if they aren’t reinventing the wheel, changing your life in the most impactful way possible, or their films don’t make you cry, then they are lesser. This discussion has popped up again due to how small the scale in story and stakes in Luca are. It’s a more casual slice-of-life/coming-of-age story than something as complex as Soul or Inside Out. Apparently, that’s a bad thing, even though animation fans have wanted to see the big studios take on smaller stories like what you would see in foreign animated films. Well, they finally do it, and while I have some complaints about how it’s handled, I enjoyed my time with Luca‘s story and themes. It was nice to see a big-budget film studio tackle a story that’s mostly about two young characters enjoying and experiencing life. It’s not about saving the world, or the risk of the fish people dying off. It’s two boys who experience the human world. Sometimes, it’s good to have a story scale back its experience. There are still themes of acceptance, discrimination, and so on, but the main deal about this story is the friendship between our two leads. The overall film is built around this, and personally, there is still a lot under the surface with the friendship and those themes of acceptance and discrimination. While they have said there is no romance between Luca and Alberto, you can pick up themes from the LGBTQ+ from how the humans treat the fish monsters and, well, the fish people themselves. Yes, the film is about a close friendship, but there may be some things that were put into the film that comes with the territory. 

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Animation-wise, Pixar shows why they are on top of their game. I know some people have criticized the art style, but when you ask for Pixar to change things up, well, this is what you get when you ask them to do such a thing. I found it charming, and it has its little animation details that it can call its own. I saw it used more cartoony blurring movements during some moments, and the mouth movements are pulling more from some modern cartoons. I adored the swimming animation when Luca is a fish monster, and I could go on about how they accurately catch the nervous mannerisms of a fish when Luca is hesitant to go to the surface. It reminds me of a bunch of times being in shallow water and watching fish come up to me to either check me out or nip at my skin. The designs are quite appealing, and the transition between fish and human forms is so fun to watch. The human designs are also pretty fantastic with a look that I can’t pinpoint with any other Pixar film. It shows how far we have come from 1995 to now with CGI animating humans. The visuals are quite lovely as, whether it’s accurate or not, how they portrayed a small coastal town in Italy, and the dream sequences are just a delight for the eyes. Casting-wise, I very much enjoyed who they hired. Sure, it’s odd that they didn’t stack the cast with all Italian actors due to the setting and such, but they all do a pretty good job at capturing their character’s personalities and mannerisms. I mean, when you have a cast that has Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, Marco Barricelli, Jim Gaffigan, Peter Sohn, Marina Massironi, Sandy Martin, and Sacha Baron Cohen, then you know that the cast will be pretty good. The soundtrack though, oh my goodness, the soundtrack is ear-pleasing to the nth degree! It’s one of the best soundtracks of a Pixar film ever with a mix of music composed by Dan Romer, who also composed the music for Beasts of the Southern WildBeasts of No Nation, and Wendy, but the soundtrack is also filled with plenty of Italian pop that blends in with the film to make for a distinct experience. 

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My one major complaint about Luca is that it could have taken a bit more from its obvious Ghibli inspirations by being a longer movie. It’s paced well for 90 minutes, but a lot of the charm of Ghibli films is that Miyazaki and the other directors let the characters lay around and just exist. Sure, it led to a lot of animation flexing from the hard-working animators, but it let the characters simply live their lives in their movies. Luca sort of does this, but doesn’t fully commit to it. It still had to keep the story moving and had to have a third-act conflict that ended in a happy ending. Heck, it even has a third-act conflict that, while built-up better than a lot of Ghibli films, it’s pretty predictable, since it’s about dealing with hateful individuals and discrimination. Granted, with how current events are right now, it’s sadly going to be timely. 

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Luca might be smaller in scale, but it’s a delightful film with a lot of charm. Could it have been even more like a Ghibli film? Sure, but at the end of the day, I still want a Pixar film to BE a Pixar film. A studio is always at their best when they are making films that have their own distinct identity and personality. I highly recommend watching Luca on Disney+ and still wish it got some kind of major theatrical release because this film would look gorgeous on the big screen. Now then, before I get to some other films, I must attend to a screener of a new Netflix original film. You probably know what it is, but if you don’t, well, you will have to wait and see. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!


Rating: Essential 

The Other Side of Animation 221: Wish Dragon Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Sony Pictures Animation has been having quite a renaissance, haven’t they? They went from a studio that people were indifferent to with most people liking Surfs Up, the Hotel Transylvania franchise, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. They then became the most overly hated studio in the world because they *gasp* made The Emoji Movie, which wasn’t even the worst animated film of 2017 or the most cynically-made animated film of all time. Seriously, the hatred this studio got was incredibly petty and I resent anyone who fueled that flame. They then became the messiah of change in the animation scene with their more recent hits like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Mitchells vs. The Machines. With their recent release lineup of animated projects, they seem to be at the forefront of making diverse and distinct animated films that you won’t find from other studios. For example, their next film is quite a delightful experience with Chris Appelhans’ Wish Dragon

Directed by Chris Appelhans and produced by Sony Pictures Animation, Tencent Pictures, Base FX, Flagship Entertainment Group, and a few other companies, the film was set to release back in 2019 but then was delayed to 2020. Of course, it was officially released in China on January 15th, 2021, and will be officially released on Netflix on June 11th. It was even produced by Jackie Chan who also provides the voice of the titular dragon in the Mandarin dub. So, how many wishes does it take for this film to be good? Well, let’s find out! 

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The story revolves around a young man named Din, voiced by Jimmy Wong. He’s a hardworking individual who has big dreams but doesn’t have the right background to reach those dreams. His main goal, while being rich and successful, is to reunite with his childhood friend Lina, voiced by Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who he hasn’t seen since they were little kids. One day, while out on a delivery, Din obtains a jade teapot that houses a magical wish-granting dragon named Long, voiced by John Cho. If Long can get Din to use up three wishes, Long can journey to the afterlife where he will be welcomed with a big parade and his many “fans”. However, an evil trio of goons wants the magic teapot for their nefarious deeds for a supposed mysterious client. Can Din use the wishes to reconnect with his childhood friend? What are the true mysteries of the teapot and the dragon? Are shrimp chips that delicious? 

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What stands out about this film is the fact that the story is really good! I think the story’s core themes of friendship, class dispute, family, and finding out what’s important to you and your life were heartfelt and compelling stuff! I know some people worried about it being too similar to Aladdin (even though the original story of a wish-granting genie was from Chinese origins), but it is pretty much the absolute opposite in terms of story and themes. I mean, yeah, some parts may be familiar, but it has an entirely different vibe and core message than what you would get out of Disney’s take. First off, the Wish Dragon in question has a more sarcastic and pessimistic personality, but Long never becomes overbearing. Long is his own character and doesn’t try to be like the iconic Robin Williams Genie. The characters all feel important and diverse in their goals and dialogue. You get why they are performing certain actions, and they feel fairly realistic. I also love that it’s not a pure romance flick. Din and Lina just want to become friends and it never turns into anything romantic. I’m so happy it’s a platonic relationship because, at the end of the day, it would be stellar if more studios realized ya didn’t need to have the two characters end up together. Even the “villain” of the film has an understandable reason for wanting to get the teapot. The film is also a real laugh riot. There was a lot of fantastic dialogue and visual gags that while maybe more downplayed than Sony’s recent hit The Mitchells vs. The Machines, I still found myself laughing out loud multiple times during the runtime. Seriously, this has some of the best jokes of the year. 

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Animation-wise, I get that some people may be turned off by the animation. The humans look a little basic, and they do rehash some character models for later purposes and gags, but in general, the animation is quite good. Long gets some of the most expressive animations out of any character this year in animation. I even love the head goon’s leg animation. It might be goofy, but the creativity of him not using his hands for a majority of the film is humorous. The action sequences may have a bit more focus on squash and stretch, but it makes it a lot of fun to watch to see the film use more cartoony physics. The music by Phillip Klein is solid as he’s the composer for The Last Measure and has worked on films like 2019’s Joker and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The voice cast is all pretty good as you have the likes of Jimmy Wong, John Cho, Constance Wu, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Jimmy O. Yang, Aaron Yoo, Will Yun Lee, Ronny Chieng, and Bobby Lee. 

I will say, the one real downside I have for this film outside of the simple human designs is that the villain is a little weak. His leg thing is super creative and fun, but outside of that, he’s the weakest villain of the bunch. I prefer his henchmen over the main villain. Outside of that, I have already mentioned my issue with the human designs and the fact they rehash multiple models for a multitude of roles, and that did drag me out of the experience at points. Not by much, but it happened every once in a while. 

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Wish Dragon is the type of film I love discovering every year. Something not as bombastic as more major releases, but a film I easily prefer to the more mainstream releases of this year and previous years. Something that I wasn’t expecting and ended up loving is always a blast to find every year. I highly recommend watching Wish Dragon, and congrats to the director and his team for making a fun and enjoyable experience. Next time, I will be talking about another screener, but expect it to land soon. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!




Rating: Go See It! 

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 3

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Hey everyone, welcome back to part 3 of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020. If you have yet to read part 1 or part 2, then you had better do so because if I don’t mention a film on this list, then it might be on a later part of the previous or future list. Let’s continue then, shall we? I mean, that’s what’s going to happen. 

18 Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarves 

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With all of the controversy surrounding this one, I am glad that it was a solid little gem of a fantasy/action/comedy film. Unlike a lot of these fantasy comedies that came out after the wake of Shrek, Red Shoes has a more engaging hook and does have a few good messages and morals in the overarching story. It also helps that the voice cast is pretty solid, and Jim Rash and Patrick Warburton steal every scene they are in. If it had better jokes and a more compelling villain, I think this could have easily been higher on the list, but for now, it’s a solid little oddity from South Korea, and if you can find it for cheap, I recommend checking it out. 



17 Superman: Man of Tomorrow 

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It feels like it’s been forever since I have truly loved a DC-animated feature, and Superman: Man of Tomorrow is one of those films that I love. It takes a little more time to flesh out Superman in his early days than other films about the hero. The dialogue feels a lot more nuanced and grounded, which makes me fall in love with a character I have been drifting in and out of loving for years now. The new animation style is visually distinct from the previous films. With its use of thick outlines, it’s different enough from the previous films to make it feel fresh. We also finally get a Superman film with a different villain with a three-dimensional take on Parasite. It might have some of the typical DC DTV film clunkiness, and I’m kind of tired of them doing a connected universe thing again, but Man of Tomorrow is a promising start to a hopefully better lineup of films. 





16 No. 7 Cherry Lane 

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Now, this is quite a film experience. An adult animated film that’s not a comedy or raunchy. It’s more of an adult romance that takes place in the 1960s. I know some people have criticized it for its slow pace, but it does make up for it by having some great intimate and personal moments between the lead characters. It also captures a period that I was not fully aware of in China. It might have some flawed CGI animation that isn’t as polished as other features seen on this list, but if you can find a way to watch this film, I highly recommend checking it out. 





15 Animal Crackers 

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It seems like we should have gotten this film years ago, and it was nice to finally get it. While I understand how some people may not gel with this film due to a fairly weak villain, and it could have gone further with being a full-on musical, I had fun with it. It was a very creative film with plenty of laughs and creativity that led to a rather amusing experience. It might not have the most polished animation, but it has such a cartoony look that it will age better than those films and shorts that use hyper-realistic visuals. If you need a low-key family comedy, I recommend this film!







14 Trolls: World Tour 

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Who knew DreamWorks would have a much better track record for sequels than Disney! While it has some story beats that don’t quite match up with the overall commentary that the film is tackling, and some characters regress from the first film, I’m still in awe that they pulled so much out of a sequel to the 2016 original. On top of building upon its vibrant and creative world with more troll races, it takes multiple music genres and creates a rather ambitious commentary about diversity, LGBT elements, cultural appropriation, and commentary about the music industry as well. I just wish the overall film was stronger, but check it out if you haven’t already.






13 SHe

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This is probably one of the two most obscure films I have talked about on this list, and probably the one that’s the most abstract to dive into. Here is what it is, this is a stop-motion film about how men and women are treated in society and the workplace. The catch is that it’s all done in stop-motion and instead of using humans, everyone is represented by shoes! I’m not joking, and this film exists. I saw it back in 2019, and while it may have been the wrong film to play late at night at Animation is Film, it’s a film you never quite forget about. It’s a visual experience full of some of the most distinct stop-motion and darkest visuals you will ever see. I think it’s a touch long, and unless you are paying close attention, you may lose track of the plot at points, but if you want an animated film like no other, well, you can’t go wrong with this film. 





12 A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

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While I still prefer the original film, Farmageddon is still an enjoyable and charming romp from Aardman and their flock of sheep. With its more sci-fi elements, it leads to some creative jokes, a better villain, and it puts Shaun in the seat of character growth. I wish the other sheep and the farmer had better story beats, but you still get an overall charming and heartwarming story about family and responsibility. Also, the alien is incredibly adorable, and it’s yet another film that shows that you don’t need dialogue to make a film amusing. You simply need to build your story, visuals, and character movements around it. 




11 The Nose 

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Now, this is the most obscure film I have talked about, and it makes me wish we could get an official US release of it. While it takes a bit for the ball to get rolling and to get the context of the plays this film is based on, this has some of the most unique visuals seen in animated films from this year. It was a rather captivating watch that was easily the best film I was able to fully see at Annecy 2020 Online, and I hope some distributor can pick it up for a US release. 

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 2

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Hey everyone, welcome back to part 2 of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020. If you have yet to read part 1, then you had better do so because if I don’t mention a film on this list, then it might be on a later part of the previous or future list. Let’s continue then, shall we? I mean, that’s what’s going to happen. 

27 Kill it and Leave this Town 

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I always respect the fact that we still get animated features that stay true to the original ambition and idea created by the director. I think that’s always a good goal to have in mind with making animated features. However, if that director wants to make a film that’s extremely slow, hard to follow at points because of the heavy emphasis on dream logic, and only appealing to a certain niche group of animation and film fans, then you shouldn’t be shocked if someone ends up not liking it and not recommending it. I do get what this film is about, but the meandering pace and focus on surreal dream-like images, designs, and a very morose tone make for a fairly dull watch. I love the art style and the music, but it shouldn’t be a shock when a film like this doesn’t find a wider audience. I know this was the director’s passion project, and that’s fine! I get why some critics do love this film, but again, if you want to make a film that’s as far away as possible from the films that come out from big studios, then don’t be shocked if you don’t catch many fans. 


26 Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge 

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We have yet another video game movie, and while it’s low on the list, it’s one of the better films in terms of video game adaptations. When it’s actually about Scorpion’s Revenge, it’s a compelling story, and the action throughout the overall film is fantastic for a direct-to-video film. However, the film wants to be a universe starter and a traditional Mortal Kombat plot with a tournament set up. It’s too busy trying to focus on making a franchise and giving Johnny Cage a predictable story arc. It’s a fun film, but easily one I can see not coming back to. 

25 SCOOB

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What is with WB and their fetish for wanting universe starters? Even taking out the above-average CGI animation, some decent casting, and a few clever jokes, references, and side characters, the film is not a Scooby-Doo film. It’s a Hanna-Barbera universe starter, and that’s it. It’s uninterested in being a film about the iconic dog and that’s a shame. When it does have some of that charm from the franchise, it’s a decent watch. Like everyone else, I wish some of the concept art that we got to see after the film was released was what we got instead of this lukewarm universe starter. 

24 Justice League Dark: Apokolips War

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Speaking of universes, we now have the finale to the previous cinematic universe of DC/WB direct-to-video films. Outside of an opening sequence that made me unintentionally laugh for days, I was glad this was the last film in a franchise I wasn’t a huge fan of. It had great action, some endearing moments between certain characters, and I think the ending was pretty good! I just wasn’t a fan of this storyline and I’m glad they are moving on. 

23 Summer Days with Coo

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This was one of the few foreign films in 2020 to be a carryover from a long time ago. I mean, a long time ago in terms of 2007. We finally got this film in the US, and while I do like seeing one of Keiichi Haara’s first directorial efforts, it is flawed. It has a weird time balancing more child-like whimsy and the darker tones of what it wants to tackle. While it has some very hit and miss animation overall, it does end on a rather nice note that I wish carried the overall tone of the film. It’s a cute film, but I can safely say his later films are miles above this one. 

22 A Whisker Away

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If there was a real disappointment from 2020, it would be this film. While it has gorgeous animation, some truly great visuals, and the villain is fun, the main character is what breaks this film. Her constant stalking and harassment of the male lead are uncomfortable. It bogs down a film with some very mature themes and ideas. It’s just a reminder that not every original film that comes out is going to be good. 

21 A Dog’s Courage

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This is another film that we finally got from a previous year in the US. While I’m not fully familiar with South Korea and its animation scene, I was aware of this director’s previous film and was excited about finally checking this one out. It uses CGI animation quite wonderfully. It is also an effective experience of a group of dogs trying to find a better life. Its use of 2D animation isn’t as good as other films, and it is yet another animated film with a tone problem. Still, I always admire a film that has a strong emotional story, and I’m glad I got to see it. Just don’t expect this film to be very kid-friendly. 

20 My Favorite War

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This is such a unique movie. While we have films in this similar fashion with Another Day of LifeMy Favorite War tells a more intimate story of the director growing up in Soviet Latvia, and it has a very distinct visual style when the animation beats happen. It might not be the best animation, and it does look a little wonky at points, the personal story and the history behind that country are way more than enough to carry the rest of the film. 

19 Twilight

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Yeah, we finally got this film. I remember there was a lot of hype for it due to being crowdfunded, which is not uncommon with Japanese animation, but then everything went silent, and it stayed in Japan for a few years. Crunchyroll then finally brought it over, and well, it’s a solid little teen drama. While it’s not revolutionary or better than other teen dramas or coming-of-age dramas, it’s still well animated and earnest in its execution to warrant at least one viewing of the film. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

The Other Side of Animation 218: The Mitchells vs. The Machines Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

While I do enjoy the animated offerings from a company like Disney, I feel like the biggest hurdle every animation studio is going to run into is not another studio, but themselves. I know that sounds snobbish, but let me explain. Disney will probably make some great movies this decade. They might even warrant the award wins that they garner. However, you know that unless the very higher-up individuals in charge allow it, you know they won’t go outside of their boundaries. They might in some visual way, but story and writing? Well, you know they won’t go the distance that we hope they can. That’s what I mean by all of this. I want every animation studio to be the best version that they can be, but I know the much bigger ones like Disney won’t be able to grow or do what we want them to do. It’s why when they do something like have more LGBT+ elements or characters, they are relegated to the TV and shorts area. That is why a studio like Sony Pictures Animation is probably one of my favorite studios as of late. They tend to be more mindful and caring about pushing the envelope a little. They go the distance. Heck, they have made the next step in CGI animation happen with Into the Spider-Verse. Even before then, they were able to push the envelope with the Hotel Transylvania franchise with the use of bounce, squash, and stretch used for the animation of those films. They were willing to go downright silly with The Angry Birds Movie 2 and sure, you can say what does and doesn’t work about them, but the fact they went the distance is why I admire them. That, of course, goes into today’s review of their newest animated feature with The Mitchells vs. The Machines.

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Directed by Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe, this new CGI/2D feature was originally supposed to come out back in 2020, but then the pandemic happened and was taken off the release schedule for a good bit with no place to call home. They then surprised the world by saying that the film was heading to Netflix with a small theatrical release. It comes out April 30th on Netflix, but I was able to watch the film early due to a screener, and, well, everyone is in for a real deal treat as this is, for the time being but I wouldn’t be shocked if it stayed that way, the best animated film of 2021. Why? Well, let’s dive in. 

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The story revolves around Katie Mitchell, voiced by Abbi Jacobson. She is the daughter of the Mitchells’ family which includes her father Rick, voiced by Danny McBride, her mother Linda, voiced by Maya Rudolph, and her little brother Aaron, voiced by Mike Rianda. Katie has always been the odd one out. She loves making movies and ends up getting accepted into a film school. Of course, her dad doesn’t seem to care much for her filmmaking and technology in general and is worried about her going off to school without a backup plan. They get into a fight and it’s up to Rick to solve this situation between him and his daughter. This leads to him canceling her plane ticket to college and instead takes the whole family on a road trip to the college. While this is happening, the head founder of PAL Labs, the Apple of this film’s world, is about to reveal a new product. This founder in question is named Dr. Mark Bowman, voiced by Eric Andre. It is during a product reveal that a new robot version of the smartphone virtual assistant that will replace the old virtual assistant named PAL, voiced by Olivia Colman is introduced. Unbeknownst to the Mitchells and the rest of the world, the AI and robots rebel against the humans to capture them and launch them into space. It is up to Katie and her family to save the world. 

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So, what do I adore about this film? Well, first off, I love how they portray the core family of the film. Do you know how if you wanted a more relatable or realistic family in animation you would have to go to a Brad Bird or maybe a Hayao Miyazaki or even Mamoru Hosoda? Well, we now have a new individual to turn to for these types of stories with Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe making one of the more believable families in animation. You have either seen this family, know this family, or were this family. I’m so impressed with how layered the writing is for these characters. From the bigger interactions to the smaller moments, the Mitchells were fun and zany, but I never felt like they were played up for comedy’s sake. But don’t take that to mean that the film isn’t funny. It’s one of the funniest films I have seen in a good long while. The number of great gags is constantly coming through, and whether they are visual, in the dialogue, or in the foreground or background, I found myself having to hold my sides at points due to how many of the gags the marketing didn’t show, and while some of the best jokes were shown in the trailer, the ones that made me laugh the loudest were not. Even with the creative fun of the premise and the character dynamics, the movie tells a very touching story of connection, the pros, and cons of technology, and as usual, what you are willing to do for your family. This film might be a laugh riot, but it’s a consistently touching story with characters you root for and want to see succeed. The writing is also very astute and sharp with its commentary about big tech corporations and the risk of technology disconnecting one from their family. Luckily, it’s not a black and white “technology is evil” story. It finds a perfect balance of its commentary about technology. They even do something that seems so hard for some animated films to do and that’s to make sure everyone in the family contributes to the story. I thought if you wanted to see an entire family take center stage, you had to go to Mamoru Hosoda for that kind of action, and I’m so impressed with how they made this work! 

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Animation-wise, it is simply put, a masterpiece. This is what I want to see with CGI animation. You always hear how people complain about how all CGI animated features look the same, but they don’t. I get why they say that, but it’s not the case. A Disney film doesn’t look like a Blue Sky film, and a Pixar film doesn’t look like a DreamWorks film. However, some studios seem to have gotten comfortable with how their films look, and that has caused some stagnation with a certain set of the animation community. Well, leave it to the studio behind Into the Spider-Verse to kick it up a notch. This film uses the same kind of mix of CGI with 2D elements and pushes it further with every character, from their skin to their clothes looking painted-on and hand-crafted. It’s impressive as all get out to watch this film in motion and see all of the little details and pops of 2D. This is the next step in the use of CGI animation, and it shows that CGI hasn’t even hit the ceiling yet of the possibilities and opportunities that you can use with the medium. The characters all look fantastic, from the sleek robots to the fluid 2D movements of PAL, to the more regular and cartoony look of the Mitchells and the other humans. Seriously, I love that we have a family in an animated film that’s not traditionally attractive. Do you know how we had that failed Vacation reboot from a few years ago? You know how it just looked like a generic Hollywood idea of a family. What we needed for that film, and outside of that film not existing in general, was something like the Mitchells. Again, it’s so hard not to gush about their designs or the fact that Katie is one of the first queer lead characters in a US-made feature film. The voice cast is pitch-perfect and I know there is this tendency to hate every film that hires celebrities, but the only problem I have is when the celebrities don’t put in the elbow grease to act outside of just being themselves. Instead, we have a case where the celebrities they got were able to become their characters. Danny Mcbride, Maya Rudolph, Olivia Colman, Eric Andre, Abbi Jacobson, and Mike Rianda all do a fantastic job with their roles. I also got a laugh out of the cameos from celebrities like John Legend, Chrissi Tegan, Charlyne Yi, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Conan O’Brian, and so on. It’s an animated film that’s able to elevate the celebrities, and the celebrities can engross themselves. Never once was I distracted by the casting. The music is a blast from Mark Mothersbaugh who also did the music for The Willoughbys and The Croods: A New Age. Even the pop song that plays during the big “heck yeah!” moment with Rihanna’s Live Your Life is an emotional powerhouse moment. Sadly, I wish the song didn’t have T.I. due to his allegations, but luckily his parts of the song weren’t played in the film. Otherwise, I consider this more bad luck than anything else that the song just happens to have him. 

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The Mitchells vs. The Machines is another example of a studio pushing the limits of animation, and every animation studio should do what the teams at Sony are doing. Push the envelope while still doing what makes you distinct as a studio. Once this film is released, and if you can see it in a theater, watch it! It’s easily my favorite animated film of the year and this year is already stacked since we still have a DreamWorks film, a Pixar film, another Disney film, a film by the legend Masaaki Yuasa, and Mamoru Hosoda. Who knew 2021 would turn out to be one of the best years for animation, and who knows what else the US audiences are going to get this year. Now then, I have one more screener (as far as I know) to cover so stay tuned! 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!




Rating Essentials

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 1

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

So, 2020 was a stressful and soul-sucking year, wasn’t it? On top of, well, everything else that matters more than what I’m about to write about, the animation scene was a mess in the feature film department. Delays upon delays, and changing release strategies shook everything up. Luckily, animation was a bright spot despite other elements getting in the way, and not only did we get a lot of great movies, but also a lot of incredible shows. Sure, the major studios bowed out of the release windows, but that left room for multiple smaller indie films and streaming features to enter the scene, and overall, it turned out to be a solid year. Maybe not the strongest, but still entertaining enough. Plus, unlike some animation critics, I watched all of the major releases that mattered. Anyway, the rules still apply. They must have had some kind of US release, I tend to stick to if they were released in some way during 2020, and while I am still following the Oscar Submission List, I am moving some of the films to my 2021 list due to the fact they didn’t get proper 2020 releases. Let’s get started. 

38 Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Water Rebus

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Honestly, I didn’t want to add this to the list because it almost doesn’t count as animation. It mostly feels like a bunch of live-action footage with multiple filters with the bare minimum of rotoscoping the footage. It doesn’t feel like an animated film, but even if it was more traditionally animated, the plot was hard to follow, and trying to find out what the plot exactly was made my blood boil. Maybe it was a subtitle thing when I saw this at Annecy, but it’s no real shock this film had no chance at the Oscars or most award shows. It’s the exact kind of film that I would categorize as unpleasant to watch and is what I think of when people say they want something as far away from the big studio projects as possible. Well, this is what ya get, a film with such little interest in making sure you know what’s going on that it resulted in an experience I never want to have again. Sadly I do get that kind of experience, but we will get there on this list. 

37 Pets United

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I know it’s a cliche to bash Illumination, but you would realize how much talent and work goes into their films if you see a film like Pets United. It’s a weird mishmash of tones, ideas, and it doesn’t work at all. Say what you will about the Secret Life of Pets films, but they were at least fun to watch and kept your interest in some way to make you not forget them. Moments after I watched Pets United, I was forgetting details about the story, the themes, the characters, and so on. Its animation is fine, and some weird aspects stand out for how out-of-place they are, but that’s not enough to call it anything good. It’s one of the films that Netflix picked up because it didn’t cost much to purchase and translate. 




36 Fe@rless 

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Shockingly, a Vanguard Animation film wasn’t on the bottom of the list. Honestly, it does deserve it, because while it’s “better” than the previous two films, I wouldn’t call it good. It’s got all of the hallmarks of the studio’s work with a bad story, bland characters, and some decent ideas that are never expanded on or fleshed out. It all feels like a film that only had enough money in the budget for a rough draft and then got dumped onto Netflix with no fanfare. A few amusing lines do not make a good film. Otherwise, it’s just more straight-to-video/straight-to-streaming schlock. 



35 Pokemon Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution

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Who knew we would get our very own version of 2019’s Lion King, but instead of a bad remake of a good movie, we got a bad remake of a mediocre movie! Yeah, I am not a fan of the original film, and I know many love it due to how every kid saw it back in the day. Still, it’s an ugly CGI remake of a 2D animated film that does the bare minimum of improving the story, and while it might be closer to the original Japanese version of the film, that doesn’t change much due to how it’s already a mediocre story. The CGI Pokemon looked fine, and the voice cast was solid, but there was no real reason for this film to be made. 



34 Latte and the Magic Waterstone

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Oh, look, another foreign feature Netflix bought on the cheap and gave no other support for it. Honestly, out of the worst films on the list, it’s harmless. Its most offensive element is that it’s boring and forgettable. It has a few cool moments like this one sequence where a character’s shadow is hand-animated, and some of the moments with certain characters were amusing enough. The biggest offender of this film is that it feels like a feature that was dated in terms of storytelling, themes, and characters. 




33 Henchmen 

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It’s a real bummer the lead actor for this film is a garbage bin. I probably shouldn’t have it on there because of the recent news about Thomas Middleditch (on top of the other creepy and awful stories about him), but honestly, no one in this film is good. It’s a situation where the film’s production history is more interesting than the film itself. I mean, an animated superhero comedy written and produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell sounds incredible, right? Well, that is not what we got due to them leaving the project early on. Instead, we got a middling superhero parody that has a decent hook, but like most bad parodies, does nothing interesting with the hook. The animation is kind of cool, but it’s nothing incredible or as iconic as what Spider-Verse did with its visual style. It’s a film with a promising elevator pitch, but that’s about it. 



32 Ni No Kuni 

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What do you get when you are a film based on a video game? The answer is a film that’s not even remotely familiar to the video games it’s based on. It’s related by name only. While it has a few decent story beats, it plays out like a very generic fantasy film. The only part that is kind of cool is the moments in time where the leads go back and forward between the real world and the fantasy world, but that’s about it. It’s a real disappointing film. 




31 Superman Red Son 

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Do you know what my least favorite kind of DC animated film is? It’s the one based on an adaptation that shouldn’t have been one film! While the story of what if Superman was raised in Russia is a compelling one, it’s not given enough time to let the proper story beats play out, and it doesn’t feel as compelling as you would think this premise is. It’s easily one of the most forgettable films from DC’s animation lineup, and that’s a shame. 



30 Dragon Quest: Your Story 

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The video game curse strikes again! This is why truncating an entire video games’ story into one movie is a bad idea, and it’s even worse when it’s based on what might be the most popular entry in the biggest RPG franchise in Japan. The CGI animation while better than most, does a few things that irked me. Why do you have Akira Toriyama’s iconic designs, but take out distinct design details that end up making everything look generic? The action and music are quite fantastic, but then the film pulls a plot twist in the last 10 minutes that causes the entire experience to drive off of a cliff. I get what they were trying to do, but maybe don’t try to make your own story when you are based on a story that already existed. 




29 The Last Fiction 

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I might not like this film, but boy howdy do I respect and admire how this Iranian animated feature wanted to be this epic that had dark tones, violence, and plenty of action beats. That doesn’t mean I can’t find some things to criticize. The scale of the story is ambitious, but it feels badly paced with huge leaps through time, and characters I found forgettable. The combination of 2D animation and CGI was also something that felt like it was from the early 2000s. Still, there is something to admire about the ambition of this film. Hopefully, we can see some other promising projects from this corner of the world. 



28 Manou the Swift 

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Way back in 2017, I reviewed a film called A Stork’s Journey. I considered it one of the weaker films of that year, and I still stand by that. Well, to me, Manou the Swift was what that film wanted to be. While it’s not a marginally better film, it at least has a lot more that I like about it. It has a decent cast including Josh Keaton, Nolan North, Willem Dafoe, and Kate Winslet, the animation was better, and it wasn’t as obnoxious in the comedy department. It still had a lot of the same problems as A Stork’s Journey, but it did just enough better with the story beats to not make this a total borefest. 

Still, the next batch of films on this list are at the very least more interesting, so stay tuned! 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

The Other Side of Animation 216: Secret Magic Control Agency Review


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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

A studio I haven’t talked about outside of one review is Wizart Animation. This famed Moscow animation studio has made a name for themselves for high-quality animated features from their country. Well, high-quality animation from the country of origin. A lot of countries seem to be stepping up their animation game by putting more time and effort into higher quality CGI fare. If this studio sounds familiar to any animation fans, it’s because they are behind the Ice Queen and Wolves & Sheep films. I only reviewed the first Ice Queen film, and to be honest, I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the studio. Not that I don’t see the effort and talent put into their films, and to give them kudos, I respect the outside film-making elements that they do, like founding an animation school to help revive what was a fruitful animation scene. I might not like many of their films, but I’m glad they are around. So, how have some of their newest projects turned out for them? Well, let’s find out with their newest film Hansel & Gretel aka Secret Magic Control Agency

Directed by Alexy Tsitsilin, this CGI feature is the newest film to start a possible new franchise of films. This film specifically was released in Russia on March 18th, 2021, and got a recent release on Netflix. So, how does this fantastical take on the Brothers Grimm story unfold? Well, you better read the review, or else you will never find out. 

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So, our story revolves around Agent Gretel, voiced by Sylvana Opeis. She is one of the top agents at the Secret Magic Control Agency, an organization that keeps track of all of the magicians and magic users in the world. She is brought in to help find a captured king, voiced by Marc Thompson. The king was captured by a sorceress who uses a lot of food magic named Ilvira, voiced by Erica Schroeder. However, Gretel is tasked with teaming up with her notorious brother Hansel, voiced by Nicholas Corda, an illusionist/con-artist. Things go topsy-turvy when on the mission, Hansel and Gretel end up getting turned into kids with Hansel being voiced by Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld, and Gretel being voiced by Courtney Shaw. Can our child-like duo find a way to work together and save the day before Ilvira uses her delicious ways to take over the kingdom? 

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When you see this film’s trailer, you assume it’s going to be like a Shrek-style film where it’s a parody/comedy on fantasy and fairy tales. Well, it’s not that kind of movie. I know everyone wants to lump in every fantasy comedy with references to fairy tales as a Shrek-rip off, but you have to look into what makes a Shrek-style clone. Anyway, this is more of a fantasy action film with some mild fun with references to other fairy tale stories like Aladdin‘s lamp and Pandora’s Box. So, what is this film’s main theme? From what I gathered, the real theme is about family with a heavy emphasis on the theme of trust. While these are admirable and good themes and morals to have, the rest of the film still needs to be interesting and or at the very least, executed in a way where this premise and setting feels unique. It sounds like a cool idea to have a M.I.B or Kingsman-style organization keeping magic in order, but they don’t do a whole lot with it, nor does it have anything that stands out about it. The film doesn’t do much with its magic setting outside of the food witch, but even then, I always felt like they could have pushed the envelope a little more. The characters are also very typical, and why is it in these types of stories, the sister of the two siblings is always considered the uptight workaholic? Why not the guy? Their arc is a little more interesting when they are kids, but why not start them as kids or just keep them as adults? It would just be more interesting with them as kid agents or fully adult. Not every animated film needs to just have kid protagonists. If you do make them the leads, then make them interesting. I tend to like Hansel a little more than Gretel, but they are still pretty bland. The side characters are also fairly forgettable, and I only find some of them interesting because of who their voice actors are. Seriously, I loved spotting Mike Pollock as the Prime Minister. While I’m not fond of the villain being yet another evil sorceress/witch or whatever, at least I found her creativity and design more interesting with the food magic. I admire the ambition of how grand and creative the story wanted to be, but the problem with making a film for everyone is that if you don’t have the proper execution, then you are going to be a film for no one. It’s 2021, we have almost 30 years of CGI animation and it’s been 20 years since the first Shrek film happened. You need to do a little more than just the bare minimum. I want to see Wizart be the best kind of studio they can be, but when other studios are stepping up their animation game with not only great visuals but also great stories, well, ya need to play ball on the same level. Not to say this film didn’t have any touching moments or moments of endearment, but it’s a mostly forgettable experience. 

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Animation-wise, it looks solid! It’s still not up to par with most animated features from this or the previous decade, but you can tell from their first film to their most recent that Wizart is getting better at their craft. I do think something is up with how characters in this world run because it reminds me of how humans in Shrek would run or how they make characters move in Vanguard Animation films. It’s not quite there, but I think they are getting better. It just needs a little more polish or a little more thought put into how you want the characters to move. The voice cast is solid. I found the lip-syncing to be better than previous efforts, and some of them put in some pretty good performances. They help elevate what is otherwise a fairly forgettable script. Doesn’t hurt to have some pretty talented voice actors. What about the music? Well, the soundtrack composed by Gabriel Hays and Brad Breeck is once again not bad, but I don’t remember any of the tunes or the more distracting pop and rock songs. It all meshed together. 

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Secret Magic Control Agency is one of the better films I have seen from Wizart Animation, but it still doesn’t get better than just, okay. It’s on Netflix so you won’t have a hard time debating if you want to pay the rental fee or not to watch it, but even then, there are better features that just happen to be animated coming out in April for Netflix that makes this one less of a priority. Still, you can find much worse on Netflix than this film. Oh well. Next time, we will be back with another screener, but that won’t be for a week or so. Sorry for all of the blind previews. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it! 


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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

A studio I haven’t talked about outside of one review is Wizart Animation. This famed Moscow animation studio has made a name for themselves for high-quality animated features from their country. Well, high-quality animation from the country of origin. A lot of countries seem to be stepping up their animation game by putting more time and effort into higher quality CGI fare. If this studio sounds familiar to any animation fans, it’s because they are behind the Ice Queen and Wolves & Sheep films. I only reviewed the first Ice Queen film, and to be honest, I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the studio. Not that I don’t see the effort and talent put into their films, and to give them kudos, I respect the outside film-making elements that they do, like founding an animation school to help revive what was a fruitful animation scene. I might not like many of their films, but I’m glad they are around. So, how have some of their newest projects turned out for them? Well, let’s find out with their newest film Hansel & Gretel aka Secret Magic Control Agency

Directed by Alexy Tsitsilin, this CGI feature is the newest film to start a possible new franchise of films. This film specifically was released in Russia on March 18th, 2021, and got a recent release on Netflix. So, how does this fantastical take on the Brothers Grimm story unfold? Well, you better read the review, or else you will never find out. 

imageedit_3_2706745357.jpg

So, our story revolves around Agent Gretel, voiced by Sylvana Opeis. She is one of the top agents at the Secret Magic Control Agency, an organization that keeps track of all of the magicians and magic users in the world. She is brought in to help find a captured king, voiced by Marc Thompson. The king was captured by a sorceress who uses a lot of food magic named Ilvira, voiced by Erica Schroeder. However, Gretel is tasked with teaming up with her notorious brother Hansel, voiced by Nicholas Corda, an illusionist/con-artist. Things go topsy-turvy when on the mission, Hansel and Gretel end up getting turned into kids with Hansel being voiced by Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld, and Gretel being voiced by Courtney Shaw. Can our child-like duo find a way to work together and save the day before Ilvira uses her delicious ways to take over the kingdom? 

imageedit_5_2970690064.jpg

When you see this film’s trailer, you assume it’s going to be like a Shrek-style film where it’s a parody/comedy on fantasy and fairy tales. Well, it’s not that kind of movie. I know everyone wants to lump in every fantasy comedy with references to fairy tales as a Shrek-rip off, but you have to look into what makes a Shrek-style clone. Anyway, this is more of a fantasy action film with some mild fun with references to other fairy tale stories like Aladdin‘s lamp and Pandora’s Box. So, what is this film’s main theme? From what I gathered, the real theme is about family with a heavy emphasis on the theme of trust. While these are admirable and good themes and morals to have, the rest of the film still needs to be interesting and or at the very least, executed in a way where this premise and setting feels unique. It sounds like a cool idea to have a M.I.B or Kingsman-style organization keeping magic in order, but they don’t do a whole lot with it, nor does it have anything that stands out about it. The film doesn’t do much with its magic setting outside of the food witch, but even then, I always felt like they could have pushed the envelope a little more. The characters are also very typical, and why is it in these types of stories, the sister of the two siblings is always considered the uptight workaholic? Why not the guy? Their arc is a little more interesting when they are kids, but why not start them as kids or just keep them as adults? It would just be more interesting with them as kid agents or fully adult. Not every animated film needs to just have kid protagonists. If you do make them the leads, then make them interesting. I tend to like Hansel a little more than Gretel, but they are still pretty bland. The side characters are also fairly forgettable, and I only find some of them interesting because of who their voice actors are. Seriously, I loved spotting Mike Pollock as the Prime Minister. While I’m not fond of the villain being yet another evil sorceress/witch or whatever, at least I found her creativity and design more interesting with the food magic. I admire the ambition of how grand and creative the story wanted to be, but the problem with making a film for everyone is that if you don’t have the proper execution, then you are going to be a film for no one. It’s 2021, we have almost 30 years of CGI animation and it’s been 20 years since the first Shrek film happened. You need to do a little more than just the bare minimum. I want to see Wizart be the best kind of studio they can be, but when other studios are stepping up their animation game with not only great visuals but also great stories, well, ya need to play ball on the same level. Not to say this film didn’t have any touching moments or moments of endearment, but it’s a mostly forgettable experience. 

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Animation-wise, it looks solid! It’s still not up to par with most animated features from this or the previous decade, but you can tell from their first film to their most recent that Wizart is getting better at their craft. I do think something is up with how characters in this world run because it reminds me of how humans in Shrek would run or how they make characters move in Vanguard Animation films. It’s not quite there, but I think they are getting better. It just needs a little more polish or a little more thought put into how you want the characters to move. The voice cast is solid. I found the lip-syncing to be better than previous efforts, and some of them put in some pretty good performances. They help elevate what is otherwise a fairly forgettable script. Doesn’t hurt to have some pretty talented voice actors. What about the music? Well, the soundtrack composed by Gabriel Hays and Brad Breeck is once again not bad, but I don’t remember any of the tunes or the more distracting pop and rock songs. It all meshed together. 

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Secret Magic Control Agency is one of the better films I have seen from Wizart Animation, but it still doesn’t get better than just, okay. It’s on Netflix so you won’t have a hard time debating if you want to pay the rental fee or not to watch it, but even then, there are better features that just happen to be animated coming out in April for Netflix that makes this one less of a priority. Still, you can find much worse on Netflix than this film. Oh well. Next time, we will be back with another screener, but that won’t be for a week or so. Sorry for all of the blind previews. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it! 

The Other Side of Animation 213: The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

One of the biggest problems with covering foreign animated features is a real lack of access to these films. You would think after so many of them getting nominated for awards, companies would be going head over heels to bring these films over. I recently wrote about the fact that there needs to be more companies like GKIDS, Shout! Factory, and LAAF out there bringing these films over. Luckily, with Neon picking up Flee and Magnolia picking up Cryptozoo, it means there will be more distributors putting their hats into the ring of foreign animation distribution to the US of A. One good thing about the pandemic is that film festivals, which would originally be offline and in person, are now all going digital. This is a great way for people to be able to see these films without having to resort to other means like importing them to view. I hope this situation continues because there needs to be a way for people to see films like The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily

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Directed by Lorenzo Mattotti, this CGI/2D animated feature is based on the book, The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati. It was shown at Annecy 2018 in the Work-in-Progress section and was fully shown off at Annecy 2019. Unfortunately, the production company behind the film, Prima Linea, shut down and that’s just a real bummer because it probably killed some avenues for it to be brought over, but I hope that it can be brought over to the states by another company. Anyway, let’s see if it should come over because as we have seen, not every foreign animated film is instantly better than the films from the US. 

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The story starts us off with a traveling entertainment duo named Almerina, voiced by Leila Bekhti, and Gedeone, voiced by Thomas Bidegain. After taking shelter in a cave to avoid a snowstorm, they encounter a very large elderly bear and decide to perform a story for said bear. The story they tell is the famous tale of “The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily”. This is when we move into the story of the king of bears Leonzio, voiced by Thierry Hancisse, and his son, Tonio, voiced by Arthur Dupont. While playing in a lake one day catching fish, Tonio is swept away by the water and captured by hunters. Saddened by the potential loss of his son, Leonzio sits on top of a cliff overlooking the valley. When winter arrives, the king still sits on the cliff. Sadly for his clan of bears, they grow hungry and worry about their survival. The eldest bear among the ranks convinces Leonzio that his son could be among the humans. Once convinced, Leonzio takes his clan of bears and marches down the mountains to the city of Sicily to find his son and deal with whatever gets in his way. 

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I know a lot of my reviews recently have started with talking about the animation side of things, but I have to talk about the animation in this film. It’s a mix of 2D and CGI animation, and it’s some of the most striking visuals I have ever seen. The bountiful color pallet, the grand landscape shots, the surreal designs, the fantastical music that accompanies these visuals make for one of the most visually challenging films in the animation scene. Do you know the term “every frame is a painting”? Well, that describes every single frame of this film. If the Contrechampe section of Annecy is to challenge the perspective of how animation can look, then this film would sweep that category. It’s also one of the more seamless combinations of 2D and CGI that I have seen in European animation. It’s a visual treat if you can’t tell by my gushing about it. It all feels like a storybook brought to life. 

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However, a film with strong visuals also needs a strong story, and to be fair, this film uses fantasy and dream logic in its story of a civilization of bears invading a human kingdom to find the bear king’s son. Luckily, the story itself has some rather mature themes including death, forgiveness, the nature of humans, the bond between a father and son, anti-war sentiments, and it even has some elements of Animal Farm where the bears take hold of the vices of man. It’s a film that’s juggling plenty of plates, but I think the story was told well enough to not feel too busy or too jarring the transition from story 1 to story 2. It’s a different kind of story from the first to the second half. I didn’t mind it that much, but I can understand if people found it jarring. The performances were also stellar with each of the characters feeling distinct and not just because of the visuals that gave you pretty much all the details of who they were. 

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The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily is easily one of my favorite animated films of the year so far. With its striking visuals, fairytale-style storytelling that can mix complex themes about the flaws of humanity and corruption alongside a strong father/son dynamic makes it easily one of the most stellar animated experiences I have seen in a long time. It’s also an animated film that hits the target of being a film anyone can enjoy. It’s whimsical for kids, but it has enough of a mature edge to the overall story and themes that older kids and adults can enjoy. Well, next time, I will be talking about the second film I saw at the New York Children’s International Film Festival with the Chinese animated feat known as The Legend of Hei

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 212: Raya and the Last Dragon Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

It’s easy to forget, but Disney was not always this giant monster of a company that it is today. I mean, it was, but it wasn’t this big of a behemoth. Back when Walt Disney died, they hit a real dark spot, and while they clawed their way out of that dark spot during the late 80s and throughout the 90s, they then fell into another real dark spot in the 2000s. They hit a bad streak and probably one that was much more damaging during the early 2000s than the original Disney Dark Age, because of bad business practices. Almost every single animated film they put out during that period underperformed or downright bombed. When they felt like they needed to chase the trend of other studios coming to power like DreamWorks and Pixar, they fell apart. They lost who they were as filmmakers, and they let down the multiple talented artists that worked for them. While they still have problems with owning a bit too much of everything, it would be a lie to say they are artistically worse than they were back then. Sure, their live-action remakes are not all great, but their animation game has stepped up, and while you can argue about the quality of some of them like Frozen II and Ralph Breaks the Internet (they aren’t my favorites of the last decade, but if you think these were the worst, then you haven’t seen enough animated movies from outside the big film sphere), they have had more hits than misses, and that’s healthy for a company as problematically big as Disney. I won’t be supportive of some of their business elements, or the fact they shut down studios, and bury their non-inhouse-made films, but when they make a film I like, I am going to be supportive of it. For example, let’s talk about their recent film, Raya and the Last Dragon

Directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada and Don Hall, produced by Osnat Shurer and Peter Del Vecho, and written by Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, this is the newest animated feature from the giant studio that was supposed to have come out last year, but the pandemic screwed over that release, and was recently released on March 5th via a theatrical/Disney+ premier access release strategy. This is Disney’s 59th animated feature. So, what do I think about it? I think you will need to read the review to find out! 

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Our story revolves around Raya, voiced by Kelly Marie Tran. She lives in the land of Kumandra, a land that was once prosperous but is now a barren wasteland due to a corporeal force known as the Druun. The Druun were taken care of due to the sacrifice made by the dragons. Kumandra was then separated into a set of kingdoms with their own ways of living and ideals. When Raya was young, her father attempted to bring the different kingdoms together, but that plan failed when the gem that was keeping the Druun sealed away broke, and essentially all of human civilization was screwed over. Years later, as an adult, Raya sets out to find the dragon that saved the humans back in the day. The good news is that she does find the dragon named Sisu, voiced by Awkwafhina. The bad news is that Sisu wasn’t technically the dragon that saved humanity. It is up to Raya and Sisu to reclaim the broken gemstones and reform the orb to destroy the Druun and bring everyone together. 

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So, this is Disney’s first original animated feature (not counting Pixar) since 2016’s Zootopia and Moana. It is kind of insane that it’s been that long. Luckily, their original animated features are still pretty strong. The main themes that are approached in this film are dealing with grief, loss, and trust. Throughout the entire runtime, you see many of the characters approach these themes in varying ways. Raya is not trusting of anyone, while her father was overly hopeful when she was younger. Even when Raya is searching for the last dragon, she was about to pull her sword out when she thought she saw some bandits that turned out to be people who turned to stone due to the Druun. It’s an interesting dynamic to see Raya bounce off of Sisu, Raya bounce off of Namaari, Raya bounce off of Noi and Buon, and you get the idea. You even see the darker sides of trust not only through Raya but characters like the Tail Chief. Seeing them deal with grief and loss is also eye-opening with how each of the main characters handles who they lost due to the Druun. A lot of the payoff with these themes and arcs feel very satisfying and that’s due to strong characters. Raya is a fantastic lead and Kelly Marie Tran pulls off her first major lead performance in a film. Awkwafhina as Sisu is divisive, but I don’t find her as annoying as previous comedic main characters, and if you know Disney’s other 58 feature films, there are much worse ones than Sisu. I love how Sisu is built up to be the key to solving the problems of the Druun, but she isn’t. She’s a piece of the puzzle, but not the end all be all. It’s up to the human characters to take what Sisu is requesting and do it on their own. Sisu also encapsulates these themes with her guilt and dealing with the loss of her dragon kind. While characters like Buon, voiced by Izaac Wang, and Noi, voiced by Thalia Tran are great twists on the kid characters, I think my favorite side character is Tong, voiced by Benedict Wong. He has some of my favorite story beats and is a delightful twist on the giant buff guy warrior. A lot of his moments show off great character animation and there is more storytelling within the film if you watch the animation unfold. 

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Speaking of animation, I think Disney has hit the next level in their animation game. While I think they have always had good CGI animation (outside of Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons, but they were starting late at that point), they hit a point where some of the weak elements were revealing themselves. Now they have upped their texture work, their human designs look the best since Tangled, and their body types have improved as well. Everyone has distinct movements, the action is stellar, and it shows why Disney has some of the most top-tier animation talents in the world. Seriously, when was the last time you saw some great action in a Disney film? The hand-to-hand combat has weight and is choreographed with excellent precision. The music by James Newton Howard, the same composer behind Pretty WomanThe FugitiveWaterworldThe Sixth SenseDinosaurAtlantis: The Lost Empire, and Treasure Planet, is grand. I adore the epic scale and the intimate tunes found within the film. I dig that they also collaborated with Filipina singer KZ Tandingan, and she sounds fantastic. The voice cast is also pretty stellar. What I usually like about Disney animation casting is that they chose actors that fit the role. They don’t just go by who’s the biggest names they can get, which is something that has plagued animated features since everyone took the wrong lesson from Robin Williams in Aladdin, resulting in films hirings big names simply for the sake of big names. The cast including Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Izaac Wang, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandrah Oh, Thalia Tran, Lucille Soong, and Alan Tudyk all are pretty good in their roles. I dug their overall performances with the script, and while I didn’t laugh at every joke that they threw at me, I still had a few chuckles that made me laugh.  

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I don’t have any major complaints. Like, sure, some of the dialogue is a touch modern, but I’ve seen films that are in classical fantastical settings do worse. Namaari could have had a bit more time for her to be fleshed out, but I still love her dynamic with Raya and the small beats with her mother. I think in the end, whatever I could criticize, there is something to counterbalance it. I could go into what they did right or wrong with the Southeast Asian culture and their combining of multiple elements, but that’s not my place or my knowledge, and I don’t want to armchair diagnose any of the cultural elements. 

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All I can do is judge this film as a film, and, well, I loved it. It’s so refreshing to see an original film from Disney Animation that isn’t a sequel, and while I am bummed it’s underperforming, I don’t blame any film underperforming since we are still in a pandemic. If you feel like it’s safe to go to a theater, then go check it out that way, otherwise, you should either wait for it to be free on Disney+ or bite the bullet and spend the Premier Access price for it. At least it’s one time and it’s tied to your account. Either way, Raya is one of my favorite films of the year so far, and I can’t wait to see where it ebbs and flows on my Best to Worst list of 2021. Now then, let’s dive into some foreign animation goodness with The Bear’s Famous Invasion of Sicily


Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essential Viewing

The Other Side of Animation 210: The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Well, it’s finally out. If you have been following me and my cohost on Renegade Animation (on Renegade Pop Culture), we have made it a running joke to take a jab at anything SpongeBob-related due to the constant delays and radio silence around the US release of this film. We come off rather harsh, but only because Paramount acted like this was supposed to be this major release that just had to be in theaters. I mean, it got to be in theaters in other countries and got a Blu-ray release, but the US, for one reason or another, well, I know the reason, but still, had to wait until 2021 to finally see this movie. Really? Can you ever imagine that a company like Paramount would hold out for something like The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run? Well, they did! It’s finally out. 

Directed by Tim Hill, this CGI animated feature based on the long-running franchise went through quite a rocky development. It was originally announced back in 2015 after the release of Sponge Out of Water. You can read up about it as it went through titles like It’s a Wonderful Sponge, it had cat aliens at one point in the plot, and then it was supposed to mostly be an overall origin story for everyone’s favorite undersea characters. Granted, some of these elements would turn into the now notorious Kamp Koral spin-off series, but we are here to talk about the film. So, it was supposed to come out in 2019, but got pushed to 2020, and then it was pushed from the June 2020 release due to the pandemic, and then taken off the release schedule altogether. It got an overseas release and a theatrical release in Canada, but finally got released in the states on March 4th, 2021 to mostly above-average reviews. It just happens to be released alongside the Paramount+ Original, Kamp Koral. So, what do I think about this movie? Well, you will have to read on to find out! 

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We follow everyone’s favorite underwater fry cook SpongeBob, voiced by Tom Kenny. It’s mostly a typical day for our favorite yellow sponge as he hangs out with his friends, goes to work, and gives his pet snail all of the love in the world. So, what’s the real plot? Well, on the other side of the ocean at the Lost City of Atlantic City, King Trident, voiced this time by Matt Berry, wants to keep up his looks, and part of that process is using the slime that is produced by snails. Unfortunately for him, the snail that he was using is all dried up. Furious at this news, he sends out a royal announcement and bounty for a snail to be delivered to him. PLankton, voiced by Mr. Lawrence, decides to take advantage of this coincidence and kidnap SpongeBob’s snail, Gary. After coming back from work, SpongeBob realizes that Gary has been snailnapped and sets off on an adventure with his best friend Patrick Star, voiced by Peter Fagerbakke, on an adventure with a robot-driven boat voiced by Awkwafina to get Gary back! 

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I know on the podcast that I have been very critical about the release of this film, but I don’t hate this film. I have a few praises for it. First up to bat is the animation. If this film can lay claim to something, it is that it has some top-quality animation. I love the fact that the CGI looks like stop-motion. We are in an era where CGI animation is evolving with projects that are expanding on the ways we can use it with more cartoony physics and expressions without it looking weird. It’s some of the most expressive animation of 2021. They somehow made this all work by converting the 2D elements to CGI, and no matter how I feel about the rest of the film, it’s incredibly impressive. I would love to watch a behind-the-scenes look at how they made this animation work. It’s a film with an incredible and distinct visual identity, and I will always respect that. Outside of the animation, there were quite a few jokes where I found myself laughing. Even if all of the jokes didn’t land for me, the animation backed it up to still give me a chuckle. It’s still very zany, but it had the right vibe for my comedy preferences. The story itself is flawed, as we will get to that soon, but while it is partly connected to the spin-off, it does have a rather nice ending, and the overall idea of realizing how important someone is in your life is a solid idea for a theme.

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The overall story feels very non-existent. It’s incredibly bare-bones, and it feels like either there was supposed to be more but it was cut, or maybe there was a different story, but it got cut and they had to keep the story simple, I’m not sure. The dialogue also comes off like they had a few meta-joke/commentary setups, but then while lampooning the tropes or the topic at hand, they fall back into said tropes. It feels like they wanted to avoid certain story tropes, but then indulged in the ones they were making fun of. Some elements are a touch messed up. For example, early on in the film, Sandy builds a robot prototype for Mr. Krabs to essentially put SpongeBob out of a job. Sure, it can sort of play off of the themes of the film, but I find it shocking Sandy did not have a second thought about putting her best friend out of a job! That’s horrifying. Luckily, that plot point doesn’t go anywhere, but the fact that there are a lot of plot elements that are introduced, quickly solved, or dropped throughout the film feels like there were some problems with producing the story. I also find it amusing that whole the franchise has never cared about continuity, the Kamp Koral stuff seen in the film doesn’t add up to the spin-off. I don’t care, but I find it an amusing observation. I wouldn’t mind a weak story, but the film’s comedy is very miss than hit. That’s a problem when your film is partly a comedy. 

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After all of this build-up and after all of this frustration with having to wait a literal year for an already finished film when the film would have made its money back if it went through a virtual theater/theatrical/on-demand release because it’s SpongeBob, I just can’t find myself being mad about it. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a weak film, and I think the animation is the only thing that carries the experience, but after all that I went through with 2020 and this film having a flawed release, it’s not the worst film out there. I think if you are curious, it’s now on Paramount+ and the spin-off is there as well. Otherwise, maybe wait to find a Blu-ray of the film. I know it’s always a little deflating to build up all of this anger for a film that is in the end just okay, but it’s good to remember that there are worse things in the world than a middling SpongeBob movie. I’ll be back with a film that I consider the worst of 2021 so far, and you will have to wait to find out what it is! 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!




Rating: Rent it!